It has long been believed that static stretching before vigorous running could help improve running performance and decrease the risk of injuries. Now, some researchers are saying that myth has been debunked. According to their research, stretching first won’t harm performance, but it won’t help either. The research has been published as an infographic in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
James Alexander of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia and his co-authors focus their research on the myths and misunderstandings around running injuries and proper recommendations for stretching and warm-up activities. They are all physiotherapists who run most days of the week and work closely with different types of runners with different abilities and strengths. They have created a series of five “Running Myth” infographics for the journal to provide their information to a wider pool of runners. This is the third in the series, following infographics on strength training and heavy resistance exercises.
Static muscle stretching, or lengthening a muscle to the point of tension for 30 seconds per stretch, has been found to improve joint range of motion and help runners relax after a run, but it doesn’t reduce injury risk in the long-term. Some runners use static stretching as a way to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness after strenuous runs, but research doesn’t support this either.
The researchers say a better way to help the body adapt and strengthen would be to build running performance through progressive training sessions. Those sessions should include incorporate an active warm-up that involves 5-10 minutes of walking or light jogging and end with three short running bursts at the goal running pace. This will help reduce the risk of developing running-related overuse injuries, such as joint pain, shin splints, IT band syndrome, and Achilles tendinitis.